This is magnificent stuff, narrated by the finest biographer who has ever lived. I will confess however, I was already a Robert Caro super fan-boy, before I listened to this recording. And the recording simply reinforced all of my admiration and respect for this great writer.
On Power is Robert A Caro's hour and a half lecture about his two Pulitzer prize winning books about Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson. He reflects on what political power means, and says that his books weren't really about these two men, but about political power, its use and abuse, and the lives of the people these men affected when they exercised that power.
The lecturer's got a strong New York accent, which you get used to only about halfway through it. It's peppered with stories about how he realized the impact Robert Moses had, as well as the travails of writing the book: it took him multiple years and he ran through his advance rapidly.
His discussion about how he moved into the hill country to live with and interview the people who voted Lyndon Johnson into power was nothing short of stunning. To enable the trust of such people he had to live there, and his statement that these people were all dead now, and there's no one alive who remembers the time before rural electrification is moving and a realization of how rare it is to find someone with political power who could actually do something good.
The lecture makes me want to go find his books and read it (which I suppose is the main goal --- audible did give away the lecture for free), but I'm intimidated by the size and length of those books and will probably never get around to it. In the mean time, this lecture will have to do.
Robert and Ina Caro are national treasures. I have read all of the Caro biographical works from “The Power Broker” to “Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson IV” and they have transformed the way I look at American history. They are all masterpieces and despite their “doorstop” size they are all “page turners” that keep one riveted to the subject matter and reading way into the wee hours. “On Power”, which is available only as an audiobook, is a beautifully written memoir that skillfully summarizes Robert and Ina’s experience as young starving writers as well as the evolution of the overarching theme of all of his work…the use and abuse of political power in a democracy and how it shapes the environment and our republic. It also touches on why the Caro’s work has such length / scale / heft. They dig deeply into the subject matter and do the sort of painstaking research that few biographers are capable of…or publishers willing to underwrite. Each book contains riveting and vivid min-biographies of such important, and yet often forgotten characters as Al Smith, Sam Rayburn, John Connelly, Richard Russell, George and Herman Brown, George Berham Parr, Coke Stevenson and Wilbert Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel. The chapter entitled “The Sad Irons” in “Book One: The Path to Power” is worth the price of the book and should be required reading for anyone who thinks they have an inkling of what life was like for poor rural women…wives of farmers and ranchers during that period. Caro’s recollection of how he and Ina actually moved to the Texas Hill country and learned these things by developing trust and rapport with the very people who lived it is a particularly moving segment of “On Power”. If you haven't read these works "On Power" will give you a great intro to these colossal and important works.
One of the greatest short pieces of non fiction memoir of its kind. And the fact that is is in Robert Caro's own voice makes it even more moving. It is part first person memoir of the biographer (and his long suffering wife Ina too) as well as the story of the inimitable dogged storytelling and reporting that has led him to win multiple Pulitzer Prizes. It is also a testament to his humanity and his reasons as to why he has spent a lifetime focused on these two biographical subjects because as he reveals, it was never about power for its own sake but also about power's effect on the powerless.
Robert Caro, author of groundbreaking, monumental biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson, talks about the origins, creation, and use of political power. It's short (under two hours), insightful, funny, and enlightening. Caro talks about his own development as a reporter, researcher, and writer, including the experience of an early, temporary job as a speechwriter of an unnamed local political boss, which changed the direction of his career early on.
His views continued to grow and change as he researched his biography of Robert Moses, and as he later researched his biography of Lyndon Johnson. It's worth noting that the Johnson biography is currently four volumes, and he notes in this audiobook that he's now working on the fifth volume of this projected three-volume biography. The more he researches, the more he learns, and the more he has to say about political power, how it grows, how it is used, and how it affects every aspect of people's lives.
Caro's books always offer an insightful look into the subject that he writes about. He has the unique ability to take his reader past the image that everyone else sees and show the real story. In this book on political power Caro demonstrates that political power both stems from and lends the ability to get things done and make them happen. More importantly he teaches that jus as much as political power is used to help people it is also used to hurt people as well.